Running the Ten Miler – It Takes Courage
On a brisk morning, with a bright blue sky arching overhead and banners fluttering, the 27th Army 10 Miler celebration was in full swing. A few minutes later, thousands of runners took off in stages and tens of thousands of spectators lined the route. The music was loud, the loudspeaker blared out announcements and reminders.
Standing a hundred yards or so from the finish line, I texted with friends and searched for a familiar face in a sea of spectators. Then, the first contestants appeared at the top of the rise. The wheelchair contestants; the wounded warriors.
The sleek racing chairs flew past, most of them too fast to get a picture! The amputees and those with spinal injuries, men and women, all doing something that defied anyone’s restrictions on what they could do. I know I wasn’t the only one cheering while tears ran down my face. I have friends whose husbands are dealing with those same injuries; I know how each of these young men and women began this journey.
There was at least one double amputee running on prostheses in the first group of finishers down those 10 miles on the rutted roads of Northern Virginia and DC streets. The shout of “wheelchair on the right, move left” heralded another wounded or disabled contestant; a blind runner and his partner moved through the crowd.
Part of the experience was watching the club and organization shirts as they sailed by. The bright yellow and red of Fisher House Team runners (which were greeted with mad clanging of cowbells all along the route), the In Memory shirts each with the picture of a fallen soldier, dates and location. Wounded Warrior Project shirts vied with eye-searing fluorescent yellows and oranges from bases around the world, the Marine red and gold and an occasional “pregnant runner” shirt; the runner in tutus, the ROTC students running together in a group; unit pennants and US flags flew above the runners. Runners of all sorts, from the professionals who strode along seemingly effortlessly, to the weekend runner red-faced and panting, the running clubs and the military cadre, all running for many different reasons.
The shouts of “you are doing great” and “almost there;” the “look, there’s Daddy/Mommy” from kids and the whistling (and cowbells) from spectators, the chant of España, España from fans of the Spanish team, almost drowned out the announcer; once or twice a medical vehicle screamed by, motorcycle cops heralded the first runner to cross the line. But the runners that were honored above all were not the professionals. The greatest cheers were for the wounded, the groups crossing together showing solidarity for their cause, the older runners, the limping amateurs.